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And The Winners Are...

By Jim Stuard, Joe Cornwall, Jeremy Kurtz and Paul Feldman

Our Disclaimer

 

This is a review.  This is only a review.  This isn't a reflection on God, fishing and the meaning of life.  We've done the best we can to share our reaction to the fly rods submitted for evaluation.  Take it all with a grain of salt.  The best way to find a new fly rod that fits your needs and does what you need done at a price you're willing to pay is to visit your local fly shop and talk to the folks there. Cast the rods yourself and then make up your own mind.  If you use this article as a resource to narrow down the field and what you read motivates you to drive clear across the county to the one dealer who has one of these rods in stock for you to test, then we'll consider this effort a resounding success!  Support your local businesses and remember to think globally, but fish (and shop) locally.

 

To the manufacturers who trusted us to give them a fair shake, we hope you're not disappointed.  We appreciate the angst a subjective review can create, and we've tried our best to present the strengths of the gear you graciously loaned us.  Every rod in this review is a solid performer that will catch fish and deliver value for a long, long time.  We fished all of these rods, not just once but on multiple occasions and under varying conditions. We didn't talk amongst ourselves about the review while it was in progress. And we didn't go searching around on-line to find prices and look over the opinions of others so we could line up with the rest of the media.  We took the rods out on the water, got them wet, and slimed them up with some fish scales and formulated our own opinions. A few of these rods got tied to fish we're pretty sure you hadn't counted on as candidates for 2-weight ultra-light fly rods! We didn't break anything, but some of this stuff might be coming back to you with a layer of "good mojo"!  Again, thanks for your trust.

 

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The Fly Rod Fairy

 

This is an interesting summary.  While we've worked hard to identify the strengths and weaknesses of every rod in this review, there remains the fact that each of us has different biases and owns different selections of gear already  In order to take that bias into consideration, we've created a daydream exercise. This is all about desire. Perhaps the responses will give you, the reader, a better idea of which rods we, the reviewers, lust after in the context of how we fish and the gear we already own.  Each reviewer was given the following scenario: 

 

We all know that if you put a tooth under your pillow, the tooth fairy will come while you're asleep and leave a few coins in exchange for the tooth.  Now imagine there's a fly rod fairy.  The fly rod fairy requires that you leave a few scales from your favorite fish under the pillow, and she will leave a fly rod in exchange.  Which fish's scales are you going to leave for the fly rod fairy and which of the 22 fly rods you've just reviewed do you most wish the fly rod fairy will leave for you to keep? 

 

Paul Feldman: "There’s no question in my mind that I would leave the fly rod fairy a few brown trout scales for the Mystic M273-2. As an amateur rod builder and a tackle freak, the quality and craftsmanship that this rod displays is the equal of any rod I have ever seen. The fact that it also delightful to cast and fish with is almost too good to be true!"

 

 

Jeremy Kurtz: "My favorite fish is the pumpkinseed since it is one of the most beautiful fish in NE Ohio. I'd leave it's scales under my pillow. Hopefully the St. Croix Legend Ultra would be under my pillow in the morning, since it is a versatile all-around performer for UL situations."

 

 

Joe Cornwall: "Most folks who know me know my favorite fish is the stream smallmouth bass, but I seldom fish such light gear for that scrappy fellow.  When I pick up an ultra-light I'm typically looking for panfish, and the king of the panfish is the bluegill.  Yes, I'm a fool for bluegill!  While I lust for the South Fork, if I had to choose just one it would be the St. Croix Imperial.  I'd leave the scales from a chunky gill and I'd hope to see that magnificent rod under my pillow when I awoke."

 

Jim Stuard: "Besides most of the local, oversized river denizens I usually fish for, one of my favorite species to catch are the sun-crazed brook trout up on the Au Sable River, in Northern Michigan. Mostly during the trico hatches that begin in early July. With that in mind, a brook trout scale would go under my pillow in hopes for the Hardy Flyweight. I couldn't think of a better combination of pimpin' style, and outright performance that will make a pissed off 8" brookie feel like a steelhead."

 

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The Review Results

 

And so we come to the bottom line.  Which is the best fly rod?  It's important to note that there is only a .42 point difference in the span of the top five finishers.  Fly Fish Ohio uses a 5-Fly Rating System, where a 5 represents the very best available with no discernable shortcomings.  To get four fly fishermen with different casting styles who fish under completely different conditions to all agree on the perfection of a fly rod is a rare and unusual event.  When any fly rod gets a score over a 4, it's an achievement.  In short, all of these fly rods are all pretty fantastic pieces of gear.  But there has to be only one to wear the crown...

 

Best Mighty-Mite 2-weight Fly Rod

(6-feet in length or less)

With a score of 4.43, the Classic Flyweight took honors with the second highest score in the entire field, missing the very top spot by only .02 points!  It's a truly classy piece of gear, one that absolutely embodies pride of ownership.  It does everything you could ask of a 6-foot length of graphite fibers and a bit more.  If you're looking for the last small stream rod you'll ever own, this should make the short list.

 

Coming in second with a score of 4.03 in the short rod category is the Classic Flyweight's little brother, the truly petite fiberglass Hardy Aln!  This rod is almost shocking in its size, delicacy and serious attitude.  Great things come in small packages, and for those who prowl the most shrouded of streams and cast to little jewels in clear flows, this rod is a "must cast" contender.

 

Finally, honorable mention must be given to the St. Croix Imperial with a score of 3.83, which, at half the cost of its Hardy competition, is a very fine fly rod in its own right and quite worthy of serious consideration even if price isn't an object. The fact that it retails for just $150 speaks volumes about its value!

 

 

Best Budget 2-Weight Under $200

 

The Echo Carbon 732 with a score of 4.08 is simply an awesome achievement in both quality and value.  For under $170, this fine fly rod took the fourth highest overall score, missing top honors by only .37 points.  At 7' 3", it's a versatile length with serious capability.

 

The Greys GRXi001 certainly didn't let the Echo run away with the honors.  It earned a composite score of 3.93.  With a .11 difference in score, the top pick could have gone either way if the wind had been blowing differently!  The $20 difference in price can go a long way towards a matching line, so for many this might be the best value rod of all!

 

Finally, honorable mention goes to the Elkhorn Western 702-2 with a score of 3.85.  For $10 more than the Echo, this fly rod delivers a classic package complete with all the extras.  If your idea of a budget rod includes a bit of tasteful bling to go along with world-class performance, you really need to give this one a close look!

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And The Over-All Great 2-Weight Shoot-Out Best Fly Rod is...

 It's vital to recognize that a 5-Fly rating means a fly rod is Absolutely Outstanding! As good as it gets! Regardless of price, this is a product that epitomizes performance. There's just nothing to complain about and nothing more to want. A lifetime product that sets a benchmark for all that will follow.   In this review we've found six fly rods that scored 4.0 or better.  If you're in the market for a 2-weight fly rod, these are the best we've found and are certainly some of the very best available at any price!
 

The South Fork Classic C662 charmed the review team with a solid 4.00.

 

The Hardy Aln impressed us with its 4.03.

 

The Echo Carbon stunned us with a 4.08.

 

The St. Croix Legend Ultra lived up to its impressive moniker with a legendary 4.33!

 

The Hardy Classic Flyweight has very little competition at 4.43!!

 

Finally, the Mystic M273-2 absolutely captured the imagination and respect of everyone who cast it with an amazing composite score of 4.45.  It is the winner of the Great 2009 2-Weight Shoot-Out!

 

 

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